As Archbishop of Buenos Aires he helped victims of human trafficking. Now as Pontiff, he visited a local Roman parish to support the families of innocent people who were killed by the mafia.
They gathered in Rome, but they came from all across Italy on the very day in which the country honors those who lost their lives senselessly at the hands of the mafia.
"Look at us Holy Father, look at each and every one of us. See the pain in our eyes, after the loss of a father, a mother, a son, a brother, a sister, a wife, a husband. See how our expressions bare the pain of loss, but also of pride, courage and our will to live.”
"Thank you, thank you for coming. You always ask us to pray for you, but today we ask you to also pray for us. Let us pray to God, so that He may give us the push we need to carry on.”
The vigil was organized by 'Libera,' an Italian institution that fights against organized crime. Before reading a passage from the Gospel, the names of more than 800 victims of mafia violence, were read out loud before the Pope.
In his remarks, Pope Francis addressed mafia members directly and asked them to change their lives.
"We pray for you to change. We are asking you, on our knees. It's for your own good. This life you live now will not give you pleasure, it will not give you joy, it will not give you happiness. The power, the money you have now, from dirty deeds, from many mafia crimes, this blood money, you can't take it with you to the next life. Change. You still have time to not end up in hell. That is what awaits you, if you continue down this path.”
The Pope thanked the victims for their testimonies and expressed his solidarity with them. He asked them to never stop fighting against corruption. After his speech, he spent several minutes greeting some of them personally.
About 700 people attended the gathering, on behalf of more than 15,000 victims killed by the mafia.